TWO years back, a study was made to determine the number of girls who miss school and women who miss work during the time of menstruation.
According to the Head of Sustainable Health Enterprises (SHE), Elizabeth Scharpf, the survey covered 500 girls and women in Rwanda.
“Out of those, 330 were girls, 18 percent of whom missed school specifically because pads were too expensive. They miss about 3-4 days a month,” she said.
Besides the lack of affordable sanitary pads, the official noted that there are also many other menstrual-related problems that make girls miss school, citing severe abdominal pains (cramps), the fact that menstruation remains a taboo subject and some girls lack education on what to do, as well as lack of proper facilities like toilets.
In Rwanda, an 18 percent value added tax is imposed on pads and officials say that the cheapest packet of pads costs Rwf500 – a price that is still too high for most girls and women.
Activists from various organizations in the country, such as FAWE, Plan Rwanda and SHE among others have emphasized the need for government to eliminate this tax in a bid to increase accessibility and affordability of these resources.
To improve the health of women, plans are also underway to introduce hygiene education for girls so that they can know what should be done at the time of menstruation.